Minivans – the most underrated vehicle on the road today. They can hold and transport plenty of stuff and usually plenty of people too – but most people wouldn’t be caught dead in one, let alone buy one! Why is that? Why is an SUV/CUV ‘cool” but a minivan “uncool” – even though they are far superior in every way? Outside of Canada and the U.S., minivans and even smaller minivans are everywhere but we don’t seem to be interested in them. They are far more adaptable and useful than virtually every CUV. Looking at the interior numbers of the 2020 Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon, it’s got more cargo and passenger room than a Ford Explorer!
Have you seen the size of an Explorer? They are huge. As happenstance would happen – the Transit Connect Passenger Wagon popped up in the Ford media fleet and I just had to get to the bottom of this – is the Connect a viable option to those of us that value comfort and require cargo space at the same time, while using less fuel and actually fitting between those white lines in the parking lot? I say yes!
The first generation Transit Connect was introduced in Europe in October 2002 (2002–2013) but didn’t arrive in North America until 2010. Believe it or not there has been a passenger version around here since 2011! How many have you seen? I’ve seen… zero in real life, but plenty roam the streets of NYC as taxis. The 2nd generation (2013-present) is still somewhat of a rare species. The biggest problem facing sales of the Connect cargo van is the stupid “25% “chicken tax” a tariff that dates back to 1964 on imported light trucks and vans that the U.S. insists on keeping on the books as a way of protecting the “local manufacturers” – ironically Ford. (Ford import the van with windows and seats, remove them and create a cargo van to avoid the tax, but the U.S. government has continually insisted that they are circumventing the tax/tariff). But that doesn’t ascertain why the passenger version is as rare as an honest politician… or does it? Apparently Ford can’t make enough cargo vans to meet the demand, so the passenger version suffers and you have to order them from Ford – you’ll probably never see one on a dealer’s lot. Something so rare has to be tested and so I booked one for a week. Is the Transit Connect a hidden gem in clear sight? Let’s find out…
- Small Minivan
- Based on the now-defunct Focus, the Connect is a perfect replacement
- Three available models: XL, XLT and Titanium
- The standard engine is an all-new 2.0L GDI I-4 engine
- Also available is a direct injection turbocharged 1.5L EcoBlue Diesel (class-exclusive)
- Either engine is paired with a new 8-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with Auto Start-Stop Technology
- Front-wheel Drive (FWD)
- Automatic Headlamps On/Off – why is this not standard on ALL vehicles?
- Choice of 5, 6 or 7-passenger seating (or cargo van) – we’re testing the 6-passenger version
- Standard Wheel Base (SWB) – 104.8″ and Long Wheel Base (LWB) – 120.6″ available
- Dual sliding side doors
- Choice of a rear liftgate or 180° swing-out rear cargo doors
- Optional Trailer Tow Package: Class I trailer hitch receiver, trailer wiring module, 4-pin connector, and Sway Control and 2,000-LB. Max. Towing capacity
How Does It Look?
- I know it’s a van, but I really like the look of the Connect – always have since the second-generation came out
- It looks like a very big car, but not quite the van as we’re accustomed to in North America
- The first time I jumped behind the wheel it was a shock that the front window was so HUGE! It’s like having a giant window to the world in front of you – it felt a bit like a small RV window
- The steering wheel is a regular-sized one that you’d expect to find in a Ford Focus for example – oddly enough when driving I felt like it should have been a huge one from an F-150 – it just gives you the impression your driving a big van/truck even though you’re not. I put it down to the gargantuan front window
- With the low dashboard and the giant window, there’s room for a large aircraft-style overhead storage console – you don’t realize its there until you climb into the rear seats and see it
- The seats are somewhat comfortable, but flat with no thigh bolsters – you’re NOT going to be doing donuts in this baby!
- Getting in and out is very easy, even for the older crowd, as the seats are at a perfect height
- The lumbar adjustment is either none or full – no other choice. The lever is all you get and it doesn’t make a huge difference. I know Ford can do better here, especially in the top-of-the-line Titanium version
- The interior colour combination in the Titanium was very nice
- The fixed panoramic Vista Roof makes it feel bright and airy, but it’s a shame it doesn’t open
- The 6.5” touchscreen sits high – sticking out of the dashboard. I’m perfectly OK with that, but it’s TINY!!
- Voice-activated Navigation System comes standard on Titanium
- The Premium Audio System with 9 speakers and HD Radio Technology is very good – once it’s set up right
- Wireless Charging Pad for your mobile phone is a nice touch and it’s conveniently located just under the audio controls
- Centre console is attractive, if you’ve driven a Ford lately, you’ll be right at home with this look
- Dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control – this actually works great. I had one side cranked with heat and the other with the A/C
- 2nd and 3rd row fold-flat bucket seats with armrest and theater-style
- 2nd row passenger–side underfloor storage compartment
- Two-Passenger 3rd Row Sliding Seats with Fold-Flat Feature
- Combined with the 2nd row seats, the floor can be completely flat or one side flat with seats up on the other side allowing you to secure large objects (up to 43.3″ tall inside Long Wheel Base models) alongside your seated passengers
- 3rd row seats slide fore and aft for increased storage or legroom
- All seats fold quickly and relatively easy, but should be better labelled. Returning them to the regular seating position is very frustrating as the seats won’t latch properly and no amount of pulling the straps will change that… until suddenly it works!! What should take less than a minute to transform turns into 5 minutes of swearing
- Cupholders in every row, plus 2 smart-charging USB ports, two 12V powerpoints and a 110V/150W AC power outlet that help keep passengers happy
- Short Wheel Base (SWB) models can carry items up to 49.4″ tall, with up to 47.2 cu. ft. of space behind the 2nd-row seats or over 77 cu. ft. with them folded
- Long Wheel Base (LWB) models feature a flat load floor and can hold up to 106.0 cu. ft. of cargo that’s up to 85.6″ long [46.5” x 86”x 39.5 high]
- Low load floor height (UNDER 2′) makes it easy to pack up to 24.9 cu. ft.3 of cargo behind the 3rd row inside LWB models
- It’s surprisingly nimble and quick, but would never be considered sporty – it’s a van after all
- Stomping on the accelerator, it’s fairly brisk getting up to highway speeds and even overtaking isn’t a death-defying manoeuver
- The interior volume on the highway was very hushed and made driving the Connect a pleasant place to be
- Even with four adults, the zippy feeling and nimble handling did not disappoint – you can’t always say that with economy-type vehicles and other vans for that matter
Horsepower: 162 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 144 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm
Top Speed: N/A
0 -100 km/h (sec): N/A
Base (XL) pricing starts at $33,055
Titanium base price: $39,025
As Tested: $43,460
Panoramic fixed-glass Vista Roof – 1,750
QuickClear Electric Windshield Defroster$260
Trailer Tow Package – $425 – Class I trailer hitch receiver, trailer wiring module, 4-pin connector, and trailer sway control
- Rated at (L/100 km): City – 9.9 / Highway – 8.2
- I averaged 8.4 L/100 km on mixed highway/country/town driving
- With 4 adults on board and lots of city driving we averaged 10.4 L/100kms
- Over the entire week (340 kms) we averaged 10.4 L/100 kms
- Basic: 3 years/60,000 km
- Powertrain: 5 years/100,000 km
- Roadside Assistance: 5 years/100,000 km
Mercedes-Benz Metris, Ram ProMaster City
- The Good: Looks good, drives well – it can even tow 2,000 lbs!!
- The (not so) Bad: I don’t know if it qualifies as ‘bad,’ but it’s definably a minivan –it’s not pretending to be something it isn’t
- The Ugly: Folding / unfolding rear seats – the Explorer does it much better
What’s The Verdict?
Ford recently discontinued the Flex – the CUV they wanted van buyers to purchase and pretend it was a van, but not really a van, ‘cause they aren’t ‘cool.’ Now that it’s gone, maybe Ford will finally push the Transit Connect forward into the public consciousness and make them aware that this IS a real van and it’s got all the attributes of a van, but the convenience of a large car – not an oversized CUV. The Connect is a terrific van for those that need/want what makes a van unique and versatile. It’s also got plenty of safety features too. It’s got sliding doors – two thumbs up for families AND people that are unfortunate enough to park next to them when the rugrats swung open a regular door and ding their vehicle (we’ve got dings on both sides of our car). Based purely on my personal observations, the dealerships are not stocking the Ford Transit Connect Passenger Wagon – if people don’t see it, how will they know they can buy it? The rental fleets don’t carry them, so people don’t see them on the road either. If the cargo version is sucking up all the available vans coming in from Spain, then maybe Ford should build them here – along with the passenger version, just sayin’.
Copyright © 2020 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland